“I can’t read that. It’s in cursive.”
Cursive and script were taken off the elementary school curriculum years ago. I recall my Grade Four son bringing home a 32-page handwriting workbook to be done over the weekend. Being left-handed, it was an exercise in contortionist’s pain. That was his entire education on script. Humankind’s history of physical scratches in the dirt, to cave drawing, to hieroglyphics to alphabets and penmanship ended in 2006.
I’ve often wondered why they didn’t at least replace the class with keyboarding. Instead, we have a generation of cursive illiterates who type with two fingers. Yes, I know. The writing is on the wall … the requirement to touch a pen or keyboard will soon be gone as well since we can activate communication with our voice and thoughts.
Old school, I can produce pages of beautiful handwriting and type 140 word a minute while not looking at the keyboard.
I fondly remember the painstakingly beautiful repetition of writing out the alphabet again and again, then moving on to practice letter groups before handwriting words and sentences. Curlicues and flourishes grew into a personal style. Unique. A blending of me, my physical and emotional self. Little hearts appeared over my “i”. A big, loopy “L”. The smooth transition from one letter to another. You could tell by my handwriting if I was in a hurry. The rushed scrawl communicated in the tighter, less fluid writing as I tried to keep pace with the teacher’s voice. How do kids take notes?
Typing required fast reflexes … but not so fast that you tangled the metal keys on your typewriter. That physical punch of the key was incredibly satisfying and still lingers in electronic clicks today.
My love of the written word extends to calligraphy, fonts, lettering and typography. My father taught all of them to me. I recall discussing the spacing of letters and learning to “feel it” vs rely on mechanical measurement. It’s an elegant art form. Dad, who had perfectly stylized handwriting, painted a monogram of my initials – LJ – onto my white furniture. The L and J were the same if viewed upside down. It was beautiful and it was mine.
When learning to handwrite, your brain builds new circuitry to embed the hand-eye coordination. It activates brain regions for language, thinking and memory.
My son laments that he has long, boring chicken scratch as his signature. His abrupt lettering is stilted and awkward. How often does he have to use it? Credit card companies officially ditched the handwritten signature last month. Contracts allow electronic signatures. I gave him a blank sheet of paper to practice a “signature” signature.
But … we are stuck between both worlds. Matthew needs two pieces of identification to get his driver’s license. One official piece with his birthdate and photo. Another with his signature. But nothing carries a signature today. Not his health card, not his student cards, no cancelled cheques.
The irony. I must take him to see his doctor as guarantor to sign a sheet that yes, this is Matt’s signature. For a document that will no longer require a signature.
Perhaps I will handwrite my journal. Its secrets will be safe from prying eyes.
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